The Mission

The Peking to Paris Rally is a recreation of the 1907 challenge issued by Le Matin, "Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?"
The 2016 version will follow a route of 13,695 Km (8,510 miles) and take 35 days. We are travelling in Rhubarb and Custard, a 1936 Buick. We know nothing about cars or rallying.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Training Day

Back in October we put ourselves on Owen Turner's training day for P2P. We met Owen on the Alpine Trial and he is one of the Sweep Crew on P2P.

He ran a brilliant one day course on rally skills and preparation and we learnt a lot.  Next step is to bring the car down to his workshop in St Albans so that we can be shown how to fix it ourselves....

I forgot to take any photographs of Owen but when I googled his name and company this picture of Mr Spock came up. Fascinating.

Rear Axle Trouble

The Car is back at RPS who have discovered a leak coming from the rear axle. This turns out to be because the  axle is twisted and needs replacing. Fortunately we have a spare which is now being fitted.

In other news the bonnet catches have been replaced so that it no longer takes 20 mins to close the bonnet; a new starter motor and battery have been installed; we have a drinks holder installed in the cockpit to stop us getting dehydrated (a problem in France because the water was out of reach); the various bugs identified on the Annecy run have been sorted.

RPS are going to fit a Monit and a cradle for the GPS. The dashboard will look like a spaceship when they have finished. Mr Spock would be at home


We spent the weekend getting a briefing at the Gaydon Motor Heritage Centre from Enduro - the Rally organisers.

A slightly shambolic British affair that ran through the route and logistics and included a session on how to use the Garmin GPS that will keep us safe across Mongolia.

In theory a chance to meet other competitors, and we did meet a few, but not the great bonding session one might hope for.

However, it has sharpened us up to get things moving and although we are quite far ahead in our planning it's time to start ticking things off the to do list - Action This Day!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Alpine Trial 2015

We signed up CLM 570 for the Alpine trial 2015 against all advice.  The rally starts and finishes at Annecy in the French Alps each day and twists and winds over spectacular mountain colls and passes. The roads are frequently single track and some are just a black line on the map.  Even in our family BMW I would hesitate to drive some of these roads, CLM 570 has vague steering and drum brakes so we were very nervous.

In the end the driving was fine and the car behaved itself.  We did have two hours by the roadside on the pre race day with a mystery electrical problem.  The ignition timing, fuel mix and spark plugs were all changed and something made it work but we aren't really sure what.  The plan is to fit a more robust starter motor.  We also need to carry a spare rotor arm.

The rally itself was quite spectacular as Gerard Brown's photos show (they are his copyright so please don't pinch them).  we adopted the approach of staying mainly in second gear on the hilly bits so that we had lots of grunt on the way up and engine braking on the way down.  With the brakes we used a stab and release system whereas in a modern car you would probably continually feather the brakes - but the drums would overheat and fade if we did that. We also adjusted the brakes every evening. Only once did we have to reverse on a hairpin bend, and the car always felt secure.

Unfortunately our Brantz wasn't working and this, together with poor navigating put us 29th out of 45 cars.  By day three however we were getting the hang of things.

Flying Scotsman 2015

I've only just got these pictures from Gerard Brown of the Flying Scotsman - they are his copyright so please don't pinch them. They were taken before our gearbox failure led to a broken half shaft and the rear wheel falling off on day three.

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Route is Published

The organisers have published the P to P Rally route today. There are some big daily drives of over 600km.  I haven't had a chance to follow the route on the Atlas yet but it looks daunting.

In other news the car has been fixed and is ready to be shipped to Annecy for the Alpine Challenge.

Monday, 15 June 2015

More Trouble

It seems that our broken half-shaft was caused by something more serious. A tooth sheared off a cog in the gearbox, causing the clutch to seize which in turn put stress on the differential creating the problem with the half shaft. So now we need a new gearbox and clutch . Oh dear.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Flying Scotsman Postscript

It seems that we still have a lot to learn about this form of rallying. To some extent it's possible to ignore the set piece events and simply treat the whole affair as a great drive with superb organisation. however, some of the off road events are a hoot whilst the tricky timed map reading events can be simplified if you focus on not getting lost and let the timing take care of itself by driving moderately. That ensures a reasonable score and because lots of people foul up or break down you start to creep up the rankings.

Here's a few more pictures of the event:

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Flying Scotsman Day 3

It's all ended in ignominy for car 28 - and it was going so well too.  Our clutch failed yesterday meaning that we tried to spend our time in third gear today. After a manoeuvring exercise at the Highland show ground we went onto Knockhill racing circuit where the car flew round like a Transit Van on steroids.  It may have been too much because after a couple of perfectly executed regularity tests through the Scottish countryside and a bit of drag racing through The grounds of Scone Palace, the wheels came off our rally run.  And I mean literally the wheels came off - one of our rear half shafts sheared and the wheel bent like a nasty broken bone. We were out of the race, and within sight of lunch too.

Three hours later we arrived at Gleneagles on a flatbed transporter courtesy of the RAC.  The finishing cars were being piped across the line but our photo was taken with us at the chequered flag on foot and carrying our bags.

Still the idea of the rally was to test us and the car and that we have done.  Now for some whisky.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Flying Scotsman Day 2

Day 2 of the Flying Scotsman, starts from Newcastle having driven 250 miles over the Yorkshire Dales the previous Day.

It's my turn to drive and to be honest I find it necessary to make several trips to the loo beforehand - nerves have taken hold.

The structure of each day involves driving some public roads interspersed with various driving tests either on private land or along quiet C roads.  Unless you execute these tests to within a 98% tolerance (or so it seems) your score goes to maximum penalties.  Richard and I have collected a lot of maximum penalties.

After coffee we go spectacularly off route because we weren't told about a change to the directions. As a result our chances of winning have vanished...

Northumberland and the Scottish Borders provide some amazing scenery and beautiful empty roads. With the hood down and sunglasses on it's a magical ride.  All along the way people are out to see us go past. Whole schools came out on Friday to cheer us and everywhere the cars raise a friendly wave. There certainly are some wonderful vehicles on the rally but although ours is humble it looks good in a photo and plenty of people come and chat to us about it.

The day ends with a burnt out clutch, which is patch repaired in the car park. It's not clear whether we should limp straight to the Gleneagles or try to complete the rally.

Flying Scotsman Day 1

We were so busy yesterday that there was no time to post a blog entry about day 1 of the Rally.

We ended the day 57th, which wasn't so bad and we should have been 47th because we got a 10 min penalty which we don't think was correct.  In fact we could have been 37th but we got a 10 min penalty that we could easily have avoided.  However that's what this trip is all about - learning by mistakes.

We have I think made every mistake possible.  We've gone left when the instructions said to go right. We've said go left when we meant to say go right. We've said keep it to your left when we meant keep it to your right.  We've said, "mind the back of that Bentley as you are reversing....oh shit (well I expect the insurance will pay)".  We have had a gold star for our Regularity tests. And we have the maximum penalty.Although we had our problems lots of people didn't make it at all.

The day finished (after exchange of insurance data with the dented Dutch Bentley owner) with having the brakes fixed and an attempt to fix our Brantz tripmeter, which wasn't showing interval distances. This took three hours and in the end it was realised that we could just use the Brantz a different way and achieve the same result. By this time dinner had finished and we still had to go over the maps.

Scenery was to die for and sunny all the way. What a great country Britain is.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Flying Scotsman

We are now in Leeds at the start of the Flying Scotsman Rally, which takes three days to get to Gleneagles just outside Edinburgh.  It's doubtful whether any of the countryside is preparation for Mongolia but the disciplines of map reading and driving skills should help us in the future.

There's an enormous amount of information about the rally and how it works.  More than we can properly take in. On the five mile practice route we took the wrong turn twice and arrived a massive two minutes late (not because of taking the wrong turn but because of traffic problems).  It looks set to be a series of massive cock ups tomorrow when the race starts.

The sight of over 100 beautiful cars is quite wonderful and what's more so is the noise they all make - sublime.  Some of the cars here are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and are immaculate.  CLM 570 looks positively scruffy next to them.  On the other hand there's no point in taking an immaculate car across MongolIia

Monday, 13 April 2015

Brantz Training

A final trip to RPS before the car goes off to Leeds by CARS Europe for the start of the Flying Scotsman.

Simon at RPS has volunteered to give us a lesson on how to use the Brantz tripmeter installed in the car.  We nod along but I'm pretty sure it's going to be a major bog up when the time comes on Friday.

We now have two plastic boxes of parts and equipment in the boot, a fuel can, a first aid kit and the jack and its already full up.  Not sure where the kit is going to go on Peking to Paris.

Bright red seat belts have now been fitted, which look very cool.

Test Run

20th March and time for a proper test run in the car.  First we practiced changing a wheel - lucky Steve at RPS was on hand to help us...

Then we drove across to Burford and took in 100 miles of Cotswold countryside including as much variety of road condition and test of map reading skills as we could.  The car was absolutely fine, mostly running at around 86 degrees (it can run hotter than normal because we've got Evans coolant in the radiator instead of water.  It did go over 100 on one of the hill climbs we inserted in the route but seemed okay.  Its a very smooth ride and the engine seems very happy.  The steering is still boat like but you do get used to it.  The drum brakes are something else - best to change down in to second gear and let the gearbox do some of the work.

the car is certainly good for a steady 60mph and we briefly hit 70 but I'm not sure it would cruise all day at that speed.roadholding on the new tyres (commercial van spec) is good in the dry but might be trickier in the wet.

the only problem we had was that our instruments failed but RPS has now fixed that.

Professional photographer and mate, Tim Graham followed along in his AMG Mercedes and took some great photographs. As you can see the car is wearing its Flying Scotsman plates and numbers.

More Cash Out The Door

On 25th Feb 2015 we took another visit to RPS where the car was theoretically ready. However, we took with us a checklist from 'How to Win a Marathon Road Rally' that added another couple of thousand pounds worth of work to be done. Still better that than be stuck in the Mongolian desert with a broken car.

Photo left is of the new rear suspension, which looks like it will take Mongolia in its stride.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Moving On

We've entered the Flying Scotsman Rally as a practice run. This takes competitors from Yorkshire (in the North of England) to Gleneagles in Scotland - home of the famous glof course. This is a distance of some 250 miles using main roads.

Our car is located at RPS in Witney, near Oxford whereas our base is North London so the question arises of how to get the car to York for the start of the rally and back to Witney from Scotland at the end.

After much discussion and some research we've decide to have the car transported to York and from Gleneagles.  All the other options are full of problems.  Richard has obtained various quotes and the best firm seems to be CARS Europe who will charge £1000 +VAT for the round trip.  They use rather luxurious fully enclosed transporters and insure the car for up to £20m, which should be more than enough!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Born to Rally

I found this picture of my sister and me.  Looks like the Buick was meant to be.

The Work Continues

I'm posting this in February but it relates to a quickie visit I paid to the team at RPS during January.  The entire fuel system has been replaced with something much simpler and hopefully more reliable, the brakes, gearbox and clutch have all been tinkered with to make them work properly, the seats have been anchored more safely and the driveshaft completely inspected. Some nasty metal shards were found in the driveshaft that would never have been detected without RPS's thorough inspection and which could have led to grief on the rally.  The shaft is being sent away to specialists for repair.

So far RPS has spent £10,000.  It looks like another £10,000 before they are finished. Merde!

After this visit I sent the mechanical checklist from "How to Win A Rally" to the team at RPS to cross check that they had picked up on some of the simple but crisis averting ideas in Alan Smith's book (coconut car mats that can double up as grips for getting you out of sand - I would never have thought of that, or that you tie them to the rear bumper so that you don't drive off and leave them behind).  I think there were a few new ideas for RPS and many that cost only a few pounds.